Transgressive Mae: Transwoman Representation and Identity in 3 Will Be Free

Authors: Miguel Lorenzo Garcia (De La Salle University, Trinity University of Asia, The Philippines)
Speakers: Miguel Lorenzo Garcia
Strand: Language, Gender, Sexuality
Session Type: General Session


Representation of marginalized groups in the media is significant their understanding and acceptance in the society. Particularly, the transgender community has long been neglected in the media, with most portrayals being problematic and negative (McInroy & Craig, 2015). Their recent inclusion in Boys Love (BL) series afforded a transwoman character actress, Jennie Panhan, to portray a transwoman role in a commercial BL series, erasing the misconception that transgendhood is pretention, as participants of Mocarski, et al. (2019) contend.

With scant attention paid to transgender representation in media, this study aims to investigate the identity construction of a transwoman in the BL series, 3Will Be Free, through a linguistic landscape of language and sexuality in films (Hiramoto & Vitorio, 2019). Specifically, the study employs a social semiotics approach, including language (Zimman, 2019), to examine transgender identity.

Findings reveal that the transwoman portrayal was realistic, intersectional, and nuanced. The portrayal of the genital reconstruction surgery allows transgender individuals to use her as a model (Mocarski, et al., 2019). The makeup, accessories, dress, and hairstyle were emblematic of the efforts toward transnormativity. Furthermore, her actions challenge cisnormativity, gender roles and expectations, and capitalism. Moreover, her language was used to construct her identity and other people’s language was also used to affirm her transwomanness. Finally, the portrayal of her relationship with people who accept her shatter the notion that LBTQI+ people cannot be part of their own family, as she made her boyfriend feel at home with her.

The intersectional portrayal promotes transnormativity, leading to transgender people’s acceptance in society. Although commercial and female-oriented, BL could be reappropriated to raise awareness on LGBT issues and further their causes.


Hiramoto, M., & Vitorio, R. (2019). Linguistic landscapes of language and sexuality. The Oxford handbook of language and sexuality. 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190212926.013.47
McInroy, L. B., & Craig, S. L. (2015). Transgender representation in offline and online media: LGBTQ youth perspectives. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 6, 606.
Mocarski, R., King, R., Butler, S., Holt, N. R., Huit, T. Z., Hope, D. A., Meyer, H. M., & Woodruff, N. (2019). The rise of transgender and gender diverse representation in the media: Impacts on the population. Communication, Culture, & Critique, 3, 416.
Zimman, L. (2019). Trans self-identification and the language of neoliberal selfhood: Agency, power, and the limits of monologic discourse. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 2019(256), 147–175.

Keywords: Transgender identity, linguistic landscape, language and sexuality, BL series, multimodality